Question: Apparently our credit report indicates that we are irresponsible. We are a working couple. My husband has owned his business for more than 30 years, and I am his office manager. We net, consistently, $115,000 to $120,000 a year.

In 1992, we had a $40,000 loss when a client cashed a check that did not belong to him. We were unable to regularly pay many of our credit card debts for a period of one or two months. But we did catch up, and we have not been late on any of our payments for a period of three or four years. In fact, we recently bought a $450,000 house for cash.We pay off our credit card balances every month. We lease one auto and have paid off our 1997 vehicle. We are essentially debt-free.

Here is the problem. In spite of owning credit cards for several department stores, two Visa cards, gas credit cards and American Express (all with zero balances), we are absolutely unable to have any credit extended to us. When we were trying to buy our home, we were told that the transaction absolutely could not depend on our obtaining any loan.

Our most recent denial of credit said that we had "too many times 30 days delinquent, too many inquiries and did not meet their minimum point requirement."

I feel insulted. When our house was damaged in an earthquake and we moved out for repairs, we were told that we "barely qualified" to rent.

How is the point system calculated? Do I get "good marks" for not having debts? Does the fact that we moved twice in the last year enter into the picture, even though it was due to earthquake repairs and the ultimate sale of our home?

It seems to me the present system is flawed. I have acquaintances who are immensely in debt who are offered bigger and better cards with better rates! What can I do? V.S.

Answer: You aren't the only person who has been skewered by a credit scoring system.

Some years ago, a newly recruited reporter told me that after moving, he had attempted to duplicate his credit arrangements from his former city. Most of it went faultlessly, but he was turned down by a department store. Why? Because, he was told, of his short duration of employment, his change of address and too many credit inquiries. In other words, because he had moved to a new job that paid more.

To a human being making a credit evaluation, the changes would seem logical and appropriate, but not to a credit scoring system. And it is a computer scoring system that makes both consumer credit and mortgage decisions these days, not a human being.

The same systems will penalize you for not having enough credit lines or repayment records, for being self-employed or for moving.

Instead of feeling hurt, I suggest you organize your life around not using credit. It will cost you nothing and save you thousands in interest.

Question: I've read many articles regarding the filing of important personal papers and where they should be kept. However, I've never seen a specific time period for which to keep bank account statements and the canceled checks that come with them. Is there a guideline? C.E.

Answer: Yes. Seven years. That's the period they can go back in an extensive audit, and it will be less expensive to keep that amount of paperwork than to attempt to reconstruct it.